The Cardinal’s Column
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
June 9 - June 22, 2013
The public discussion on “same sex marriage”…
Cardinal George’s Schedule
- June 9-14: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Spring Assembly, San Diego, Calif.
- June 16: 7 p.m., 25th Anniversary Mass, AGLO Chicago, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Chicago.
- June 17: 6 p.m., Fore the Kids, Office of Catholic Schools Golf Outing, Westchester
- June 18: 9:30 a.m., Priests' Day, White Eagle Banquets, Niles
- June 19: 7:30 a.m., Archdiocesan School Board Meeting, Quigley Center; 10 a.m., Episcopal Council Meeting, Residence; 6 p.m., Speaker, Illinois Right to Life Banquet, Lombard
- June 21: 9:30 a.m., Administrative Council Meeting, Quigley Center; 6:15 p.m., Mass, Order of Malta, St. Peter Church, Skokie
Cardinal George approved the following clergy appointment April 9. All appointments are effective immediately:
Rev. Raymond Novak to be the associate pastor of Holy Name Cathedral Parish, North State Street, effective immediately.
Contributing to the discussion of “marriage” between persons of the same sex is as challenging as the subject is complicated. The first word right now should be one of gratitude to the many citizens of Illinois who have said to our legislators what we know to be true from nature itself: two persons of the same sex cannot be physically joined in a marital union.
A word of special thanks is due the Protestant pastors from the African American community, for whom the Word of God in the Bible is a sure and absolute guide to life, in public and in private. The words of Jesus are as true today as when he spoke them to the Pharisees: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one” (Mt 19: 4-6).
For many, the concern most often expressed in the public debate is for the family, for recognizing the ties between a child and his or her mother and father, together in marriage for the sake of protecting and forming the next generation of the human race.
The opposite voice in the discussion speaks from a different base. The plausibility of the legislative proposal to create a marriage based on sexual relations between people of the same sex comes from a cultural shift regarding marriage. Many, unfortunately, now see marriage only as a private, two-person relationship based on love and sexual attraction rather than as a public social institution governing family life. Further, the claim that one is not equal under law is powerful in our society; it makes one a victim. And the claim that one is being demeaned and personally wounded is even more powerful evidence of victimization. Finally, in a post-Freudian culture one should be free to act on every sexual desire, provided there is no coercion in the relationship.
Nonetheless, the legal creation of what is naturally impossible is not inevitable. Cultural change can be redirected so that the long road to obtain respect that has been traveled by many homosexually oriented persons can be maintained without destroying the institution of natural marriage. Since the difference between men and women is different from racial difference, same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue. A newly invented civil right cannot be used to destroy a moral good, lest society itself go into decline.
What comes next in this public discussion? Concern for strengthening family life was a topic for the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council recently. The results of their excellent deliberations and suggestions for help on this issue can be found by going into the “Archive” section of the archdiocesan blog on our website, www.archchicago.org/blog.
The upcoming celebration of Fathers’ Day might serve as the occasion to appreciate anew the distinctive role of men in family and society. We all know that parents are not interchangeable. Fatherless families contribute to the violence that plagues us. An honest discussion of violence would take us beyond laws on gun control, important though that discussion is, to the disappearance of men from the institutions that develop their sense of responsibility and their desire to protect rather than destroy women and children.
We should be concerned as well about the State overreaching its proper authority, which is limited to the civil order. Neither the church nor the state “own” the institution of marriage. The state has a right to supervise but not to redefine an institution it did not create. This tendency for the government to claim for itself authority over all areas of human experience flows from the secularization of our culture. If God cannot be part of public life, then the state itself plays God. There are many paths to total state control of life — fascism, totalitarianism, communism. In the United States, the path is labeled “protection of individual rights.”
We should be concerned about the role of Catholics in public life. Catholic politicians are complicit in secularizing our society when they reduce their religious beliefs to private opinions and promise that their religious faith will not influence their public life. This false dichotomy began when John Kennedy, fighting anti-Catholic prejudice in his campaign to be elected president, told Protestant ministers in Houston not to worry about his acting like a Catholic. Political figures who still claim to be Catholic but who systematically ignore Catholic moral and social teaching in public life cut themselves off from the communities that once nurtured them. How should faithful Catholics distinguish political pragmatism from betrayal?
Are we to have a religious test for public office that excludes Catholics serious about their faith from appointment to federal judgeships? Are Catholics who will not perform abortions to be excluded from medical school? Are Catholics to be unwelcome in the editorial offices of major newspapers, in the entertainment world, or on university faculties unless they put their faith aside? In short, what began as a political device to get elected to office in a Protestant society can be used more broadly to exclude Catholics from any position of influence in public life. If Catholics are to be closeted and marginalized in a secularized society, Catholic parents should prepare their children to be farmers, carpenters and craftsmen, small business people and workers in service industries, honorable occupations that do not, however, immediately impact public opinion. Is this the future? That’s a concern.
And there’s a last concern, even more fundamental. We are now remembering Pope John XXIII 50 years after his death. Pope John was a good man who experienced a conversion of mind and heart because he talked to a rabbi from France. The rabbi explained to the pope the consequences of “the teaching of contempt” for the Jewish people. While official doctrine condemned overt persecution, Jews had suffered terribly from a contempt embedded for many generations in much of European culture. Its full consequence was the exclusion of Jews from public life in Germany and then their extermination in the Holocaust. The pope understood what the rabbi told him, and the relation between Catholics and Jews was given a new start. Today, listening to the public discussion on talk shows, watching television series and movies, overhearing influential conversations in offices and universities, which groups are most often discussed with open contempt? That, too, is a concern.
Pray for the public conversation in our state as the debate on “same-sex marriage” continues.